The Passion About ‘The Passion’
Posted: February 23, 2004
© 2002 Contender Ministries
As I write this, the opening night of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, is fast approaching. I don’t remember another movie that has caused so much controversy before it has even opened. Charges of anti-Semitism abound, and many Jewish leaders are ready to protest at theaters around the United States. At Contender Ministries, we’ve received several emails asking about this movie. Some ask if it truly is anti-Semitic. Others ask if they should go see it, as Mel Gibson is a Catholic. Let me try to answer both questions.
First, let me confess up front that I have not yet seen the movie. Unlike those who are already loud in their opposition to the film, I’ll withhold final judgment until after I see it on opening night. The information I give in this article is based strictly on what I’ve heard and read from those who have seen advanced screenings.
Those who level charges of anti-Semitism do so based on a few observations. First, they object on the basis that the movie portrays the Jewish Sanhedrin handing Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified, and the crowd shouting for Jesus’ crucifixion. This accurately reflects the gospel account (Matthew 26:57 – 27:26). Opponents successfully persuaded Gibson to delete a scene where the crowd tells Pilate, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” This is an accurate reflection of Matthew 27:25. Some Jewish leaders state that the Jews in the movie are portrayed in caricature, with “hawkish” noses and “beady eyes.” This phenomenon is not apparent in the movie trailers, and may well be an issue of perception.
If “The Passion” accurately portrays the Gospel account, then we must look at all the characters represented. Jesus, His mother and brothers, and His disciples are all Jews. Two members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, are followers of Jesus. Nicodemus argued for Jesus before the crucifixion, and Joseph of Arimathea had Jesus placed in his own tomb. With all these Jews on the side of the Messiah, how can an accurate portrayal of the Gospels be deemed anti-Semitic? The truth of the matter is that anti-Semites do not need this movie to be anti-Semitic. And a true believer in Jesus Christ will know that it is anti-Christian to be anti-Semitic. Mel Gibson put it well when he said that the Jews did not kill Jesus – we ALL did. Jesus gave His life as an atonement for our sins, so His blood truly is on us all.
Some Jews have historically encountered “Christians” who call them “Christ killers.” Encounters with such wrong-thinking, hateful people should not be considered representative of Jewish-Christian relations. Schindler’s List did not create a wave of anti-German sentiment. Movies about Moses (there have been a few) did not fan the flames of Anti-Egyptian hatred. While passion plays have historically fed anti-Semitic expression, today’s target audience of Mel Gibson’s movie are the best friends and allies to the Jewish people.
While some are concerned about watching this movie because Mel Gibson is Catholic, I do not share that concern. From everything I’ve read, Gibson sticks closely to the same gospel account present in the Protestant Bible. While I do not agree theologically with Mr. Gibson on many issues, I’m anxious to watch what has been billed as a “life changing event” by those evangelical leaders who have screened the movie. For those who are still uncertain, I will be posting a review of this movie soon after opening night.
I firmly believe that the bulk of criticism directed toward this movie is due to the fact that it IS a biblically accurate account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Our secular society has been busy chasing our Lord from every public venue it can find, and this movie is an obstacle to that plan. What’s worse, in the mind of the secularists, is that this movie just might galvanize Christians together with a unity of purpose and a commitment to serve Him better than we have been.
As a side note, the movie is rated ‘R’ because of graphic violence. If this violence is, as Gibson has stated, simply to show the stark reality of what Jesus went through, then I support it. If it is gratuitous, I will condemn it in my review. While I encourage you to see this movie this weekend if possible, young children should probably be left at home with the babysitter. God bless, and see you at the movies.